If there is one thing I have learned from anxiety it’s that our brains are ill equipped to handle modern life. The adrenaline dump triggered by my amygdala whilst I stand in line at the grocery store, balancing a jumbo pack of toilet roll, and a couple of chocolate bars; that causes me to sweat and shake throughout the transaction, and prompts the cashier to express concern about my wellbeing, it’s all just faulty wiring. In a split second my reptilian brain believes it has perceived a threat. A twinge, a color, a stray thought.
I am less sure about the malfunction that prompts me to deliberately sabotage budding relationships, that causes me to look away a moment too soon, to let the words die on my lips, to miss the phone call. I have my family, my pack. They keep me safe. I know my place in their ranks. It’s right and predictable, and I can retreat there when the world feels scary.
But you know that feeling, when you climb aboard an airplane bound for somewhere new? It’s cold, and you notice the bolts around the door to the fuselage. Your stomach lurches at the thought that, in minutes, you will ascend into the sky, tray table shaking, the world tilted. New friendships are like that. You’ll get where you are going and there will be smells and tastes and ways of being you never knew existed. It will be exhilarating, and you’ll know that every bit of it you will hold dear in your memories.
I’ve had few friendships in my life that I’ve allowed to become familiar enough to call “home.” Most don’t make it past the drink service, but the ones that have I’ve managed to stamp out nearly to extinction. The kind of honesty and vulnerability required to maintain these kinds of relationships I don’t believe will ever come easily. Much better, my neanderthal brain thinks, to hide away, excuse myself, pay extra for the refundable ticket. “Tomorrow”, I think, “when I’m thinner, wiser, more educated, then I’ll wobble down the jetway, rolling suitcase at by back. When I’m better, I’ll live. When I’m whole, I’ll love. When I’m worthy, I’ll let you love me.”
So this is for the women to whom I have returned my ticket, who’ve accepted, graciously, my excuses, who wonder if perhaps they said something wrong, did something wrong. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to tell you before, but here it is; you matter to me. I hope you are doing well. I hope your heart isn’t hurting. I hope you know immeasurable joy. And if you haven’t heard from me in a while, I probably miss you like hell.